In our Headliners series of conversations, we get under the skin of PR and communications leaders around the world who have made PRovoke Media headlines recently, uncovering what they see as the greatest challenges and opportunities for the industry, where they find inspiration (and how they switch off), what they’ve learned about themselves, as well as the creative campaigns they love and the work they are most proud of.

In this week's Q&A, we speak to executive director of UK government communications Alex Aiken, who in April is moving to a new role as communications advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the UAE.

What are the greatest challenges and opportunities for the PR and communications industry over the next 12 months?

Leadership. Leading at a time of global uncertainty and extraordinary challenge. Information properly used is a powerful force for good to deliver public relations that genuinely creates better understanding. This requires PR leaders to understand the global context, and the challenges their colleagues are facing, and motivate their teams through these unprecedented times. Evidence, and evaluation as ever are critical to meeting this challenge.

What’s the best PR campaign you’ve seen recently and why?

I’d highlight the work of the UK weather agency, the Met Office. They've been around for  over 150 years and communication is central to their work. They are constantly and showing us how the weather works, what’s coming and why they're sometimes wrong. Their explanation for climate change is compelling and their PR is effective – a great digital offer, and brilliant visualisation of data. And they have to do it every day.

What work from your team are you most proud of over the past year?

I highlight the work that we did on Emergency Alerts. This was a national campaign to demonstrate the importance of having a system to alert everyone in the UK through their mobile phone to threats to life. There was lots of scepticism about the project. We had to develop and deliver a credible plan using effective creative, working with the whole range of public authorities to make sure the public knew what was going to happen. And it was successfully executed as a low cost public relations campaign.

What have you learned about yourself over the past couple of years?

The need for pace, not rushing at the solution, the importance of resilience built through rest and the value of colleagues.

How do you switch off and maintain wellness?

My weekends are spent on the sports fields, watching my son and daughter play, running Westminster Wanderers FC and, during the summer, St Peters cricket club. Competitive sport is a real escape.

What cultural source (eg book/podcast/movie/TV show/music artist) has provided creative inspiration for you lately?

I'm reading Munitions of the Mind by Philip Taylor. He makes the case that the Assyrians, the Acropolis and Thomas Cromwell are all part of the part of the history of public communication. It’s fascinating.

If I wasn’t working in PR/comms I would be…

I really enjoyed my time serving as Honorary Colonel in the British Army. and consistently impressed by the men and women of our Armed Forces, and if I had my time again I would join up.